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An Introduction to Stavanger and its Buses.



 
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An Introduction.

Public Transport in Norway

Old Stavanger
Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger). Click for a larger picture.

Norway is a land of mountains, punctuated with fjords, which can penetrate over 100 km. inland. The distance from north to south is roughly the same as that of the west coast of the USA from the Mexican to the Canadian borders, or from London to Minsk. With a land area roughly the size of Montana, or 50% larger than the UK, it has a population of only 4½ millions. Because of the mountainous interior most towns and cities of any significance are on the coast. For hundreds of years the sea was the Natural highway for both short and long distance travel between centres of population. Today, the sea is still an important link between communities, with a number of high-speed passenger ferry routes, though the greater part of sea transport is now for the transport of goods. Despite massive investment in road improvement schemes, bridges and tunnels, it is still difficult to make a road journey of any length along the west-coast without taking a car-ferry at some point.

The railway network in Norway is very limited, which is not surprising given the country's terrain! The hub of the railway system is the capital, Oslo in the south-east. There are three main routes: Oslo - Stavanger, Oslo - Bergen, and Oslo - Trondheim, all within south and mid- Norway. There is a line to Narvik in the north, but this is a part of the Swedish rail system
Local train
A local train on the Stavanger to Egersund line. Picture taken July 1989. Click for a larger picture.
and runs only the few kilometres from the Swedish border to Narvik. In addition to these main-lines are a number of branch lines.

Air travel is without doubt the most popular means of long-distance passenger travel within Norway. It is quick, relatively cheap, and as easy as travelling by train. It is also the only practical means of long distance travel if time is a factor. For example, the journey from Stavanger to Oslo by air takes about 35 minutes. By rail the journey takes about 9 hours, and by road about 10 hours.

It is not difficult to appreciate that this combination of long distances, difficult terrain, and thinly spread population, has been a deciding factor in the development of land-based transport in Norway. (Go to top)

Stavanger and district

Restored sea houses in Stavanger
Much land has been reclaimed around the harbour area. These sea houses once stood at the water's edge. Picture taken in March 1999. Click for a larger picture.

With a population of just over 100,000 Stavanger is Norway's fourth largest city. Situated in the extreme south-west, it enjoys one of the mildest climates in Norway. The City dates back about 1000 years, and has a cathedral dating from the 12th. century, built by the English monk Reinald who came to Stavanger to take up the position of the city's bishop. It is dedicated to another Englishman, St. Swithun, who is also the city's patron saint. The city is now a mixture of old and new. Many of the old timber seahouses around the harbour area have been restored and are used as shops, offices, restaurants and pubs. On the west side of the harbour lies Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger) with it's narrow cobbled streets lined by quaint old timber houses.

Stavanger now has an extensive suburban area stretching out to the east, and especially to the south, where it meets the neighbouring town of Sandnes (pop. 60,000). Other neighbours are Randaberg to the north, and Sola to the south-west, where Stavanger Airport is located. Stavanger's hinterland is very untypically Norwegian. This area, called Jæren, is rich farmland with gently rolling hills, levelling out to long sandy beaches along the North Sea coast. It is dotted with bustling towns and has a well developed road system. (Go to top)

Public Transport in Stavanger

Stavanger is well served by public transport, both local and long distance. Being Norway's 'Oil Capital', it has direct air links with many cities in the UK and rest of Europe, as well as domestic links. It has a car-ferry link with Newcastle in the UK. There is a high-speed sea route to Haugesund and Bergen to the north.
Passengers boarding one of the high-speed ferries to Bergen
Passengers boarding one of the high-speed ferries to Haugesund and Bergen. Picture taken in March 1999. Click for a larger picture.
There is a rail link with Oslo in the east, and an express coach link with the towns and cities along the south coast and up to Oslo, and also northwards to Haugesund and Bergen.

At a local level there is an extensive network of bus routes. From 1. January 2003 these will be operated by SOT Trafikk (a subsidiary of Connex Norge), and Nettbuss Vest (a division of NSB, the state owned railway company) on contract to Rogaland Kollektivtrafikk. There is a local railway line from Stavanger, south to Egersund, serving Sandnes and the main Jæren towns. There are also a number of ferry routes from Stavanger to the east and north. In more recent years there has been a programme of bridge and tunnel building, which has provided direct road links to many of the islands to the north of Stavanger. One of the most spectacular of these projects is the 'Rennfast' link. This consists of two under-sea tunnels and a bridge. The longest of these tunnels at 5860 metres is the Byfjordtunnelen, which at its deepest is 233 metres below sea-level. At the time of its completion in 1992, it was the world's deepest under-sea road tunnel. The other tunnel, Mastrafjordtunnelen, is 4424 metres long and 133 metres deep. This and other projects have eliminated a number of ferry routes and served to widen the bus net. (Go to top)

The Buses

The vast majority of buses in use in the Stavanger area are full-size (12 metre) single deckers represented by Volvo, Scania, Mercedes-Benz, Daf and MAN types. There are also a number of Volvo articulated buses operated by SOT. Midi-buses are quite rare. Those that are found are generally of the type Volvo B6. Even rarer are mini-buses, represented by Renault. The only double-deckers are touring coaches operated by Haga Buss.

These buses are all imported, there being no bus chassis manufacturer in Norway. Bus bodies on the other hand, were produced in large numbers in Norway. A large proportion of service buses in operation have Norwegian produced bodies. Norwegian coachbuilders have been subjected to some strong competition, as well as a shrinking market. The only coachbuilder still in business is Vest-Busscar AS in Stryn, west Norway. Bus bodies built by Arna Busser AS, which closed in 1997, are still much in evidence. Those by Brødrene Repstad Karosserifabrikk AS, which closed in 1990, are fast dwindling. Even rarer are bodies by VBK (Vestfold Bil og Karosseri), which closed for bus body production in 1982.
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Modern Stavanger
Modern Stavanger. Picture taken in July 1989. Click for a larger picture.

The Bus Companies.

Connex Vest

Connex Vest is a division of Connex Norge, the Norwegian subsidiary of Europe's largest passenger transport concern. Connex Norge has its head office in Stavanger. Connex Vest, based in south-west Norway, consists of four companies; SOT Trafikk, Haga Buss, Østerhus Buss and Sokndal Bilruter.

SOT Trafikk is the largest bus operator in the district. Its depot is at Revheim, a suburb of Stavanger. The bulk of their buses operate in the green livery of Kolumbus, the operating name for Rogaland Kollektivtrafikk, the public transport authority in the Stavanger and Jæren area. A few of the older buses, mainly DAF SB220's can be still be seen in the yellow and white SOT Trafikk livery. As well as the services operated on behalf of Kolumbus, SOT Trafikk also operates airport bus services, an express with Haugaland Buss between Stavanger and Haugesund, and express services in Norway Bussekspress livery.

Østerhus Buss is a small bus operator based at Tau, in Ryfylke, the beautiful fjord area just north of Stavanger. Østerhus Buss operates a number of "shopping" buses from the Tau district to Stavanger and Sandnes.

Sokndal Bilruter based at Hauge i Dalane in the south of Rogaland county operates an express service between Hauge, Egersund and Stavanger.

Haga Buss is a large operator of touring coaches providing vehicles and crew for tour operator HagaNor Reiser. The company also provides private hire services locally.

Byterminalen, Stavanger's Bus Station. Click for a larger picture.
'Byterminalen', the hub of the bus network in the Stavanger area. To the left is a Mercedes-Benz in the blue livery of NSB, to the right, a Volvo in the white and yellow livery of SOT. The bus station, built under a car-park, is like a dark cave. Not the most welcoming of places! Click for a larger picture.

Nettbuss (formerly NSB Biltrafikk)

Nettbuss, a part of the state railway company, is Norway's largest bus operator with over 13 subsidiary companies nationwide. The local subsidiary, Nettbuss Vest, is based in Sandnes. The majority of the buses operate in the green Kolumbus livery providing bus services in Sandnes and to the south. Buses not used on the Kolumbus services have the blue Nettbuss livery.

Other Companies

Sirdalsruta with their red and white buses and coaches have their main depot at Tonstad in the neighbouring county of Vest Agder. Their buses have become a familiar sight in the Stavanger area, in part due to their express service between Tonstad and Stavanger. The company was wholly owned by Sirdal Kommune until financial difficulties forced a decision to sell the company in November 2001 to Nettbuss.

NOR-WAY Bussekspress operates Inter-City Express services over the whole of Norway and abroad. It is a joint venture, set up in February 1987 by some of the major bus operators in Norway. The vehicles, which are all luxury coaches, are individually owned by the various regional operators, but all have a basic common livery. Liveries are personalised to the routes the vehicles run on. There are 3 routes from Stavanger serving Oslo, Kristiansand and Bergen.

Haugaland Busstrafikk AS operates a service in conjunction with SOT between Haugesund and Stavanger.



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This page was last updated on: 8 September 2003